Dr. Uttam Saikia Discovers Rare Bat Species in Meghalaya

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Scientists have discovered yet another bat species from Meghalaya which has so far been unknown from India.

A team of scientists led by Dr. Uttam Saikia of Zoological Survey of India, Shillong and scientists from a few European natural history museums have recently reported a very specialized bamboo dwelling bat species from Lailad area adjacent to Nongkhyllem Wildlife Sanctuary in Meghalaya.

The bat species Eudiscopus denticulus, aptly called disk-footed bat is very distinctive in appearance with prominent disk like pads in the thumb and bright orange colour.

While sampling in a bamboo patch adjacent to Nongkhyllem Wildlife Sanctuary last summer, Dr. Saikia and his ZSI colleagues stumbled upon a striking looking small bat.

From the modifications in the feet, it was presumed to be a bamboo dwelling species which was later identified as a disk-footed bat. This bat is reported to roost inside bamboo internodes aided by their adhesive disks. So far, this species is known form a few localities in Southern China, Vietnam, Thailand and Myanmar. This new locality in Meghalaya is about 1000 km westward range extension of the species and the present record has added an additional genus (a category above species) and species to the bat fauna of India.

The researchers noted that although several bamboo dwelling bat species are common throughout Southeast Asia, this bat is nowhere commonly found and known only from a few localities worldwide.

The research team also compared certain DNA sequence of the Meghalaya individual with that of specimens from Vietnam. Very interestingly, despite a large geographic distance separating the samples, they were found to be identical. And they were also found to be genetically very different from all other known bats bearing disk like pads. The researchers have hypothesized that Eudiscopus populations from Vietnam and Meghalaya may have a very recent common origin and all existing bat populations expanded from the same region, following recent expansion of man-made bamboo forests.

From the analysis of the very high frequency echolocation calls of the Meghalaya individual, they noted that the call structure is suitable for orientation in a cluttered environment like inside bamboo grooves.

It is noteworthy to mention that Dr Saikia and colleagues have been documenting the bat fauna of India for some years now. They have reported several interesting species from Meghalaya and raising the tally to an astonishingly high 66 bat species from the state.

For a state with abound natural resources but rapid ecological degradations, this discovery further highlights the need for more comprehensive documentation of lesser-known aspects of biodiversity.

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